Thursday, 7 January 2010

Owen Side Saddles in Museums

Our family enjoys going to museums and when we go, I'm always hopeful to see something horsey in them- especially something related to side saddle riding.

A couple of years ago, we visited Stamford Hall here in Leicestershire. The hall was built in the 1690's by Roger Cave and is still home to his very fortunate descendants. The grounds and the buildings are absolutely magnificent and each room is filled with original antiques and family heirlooms. One room has even been turned into a mini costume museum will glass cabinets showing ancestor's clothing which were found stored away in the attic of the hall. I remember seeing a beautiful silk taffeta 1860's gown on display, it was tiny!

Visitors are also allowed to walk around the grounds and we visited the courtyard where an old stable building was. You were only allowed to peer into the tack room, and it was dark and dirty in there but tack still remained in there from horses long gone. Old bridles, bits, horse collars were hanging up but the best part was, seeing an old side saddle on an old wooden saddle stand!

Although it was hard to get a good look at it as the building was so dark and dusty, when I viewed the photo later on, the flash allowed a better look at the saddle.

It appears to be a c. 1920's Owen with a nice flat seat but sadly, the leaping horn is missing and the fixed pommel has been bent badly backwards. It's a shame that such a desirable saddle has ended up in this way. I wonder if it was ridden around the vast grounds of Stamford Hall and hunted in? Oh the stories I bet it could tell!

In contrast, is the mint condition early 1930's Owen side saddle currently in the collection of the McCord Museum in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

This saddle has been on display in the museum for several years and when I lived in Montreal, I always used to go and admire it! I was lucky enough to go back to Montreal to visit my family and took some photos of the saddle before the museum took the display down and the saddle was put into storage again.

It's a small size saddle (I got as close as I could to try and measure it) and the seat was about 16" (UK measurement from cutback to cantle) or about 20" from front of fixed head to cantle. The museum dated it to the early 1930's and it was imported from England for a well to do young lady.

I wonder if she rode with the Montreal Hunt Club which during the 1930's, would have still been based on the island of Montreal or if she rode on Mount Royal, the mountain in the middle of the city, on the vast hacking trails that used to be there until the 1960's...

Mount Royal is where all Montreal's Society rode and drove their horses to see and be seen.

Oh, if side saddles could talk!


  1. The Owen saddles just look so elegant. It's a shame that one is in such bad shape. Kind of looks like a horse might have come over on it?

  2. I thought that as well that maybe a horse went over on it. Maybe the saddle had sentimental value which is why they kept it in the family.